Morning Shift

Police Board President: Chicago Can Make Police Reforms Without DOJ

Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot speaks on WBEZ's Morning Shift. Jason Marck/WBEZ


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Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot says a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department shouldn’t preclude local reform.

“Local policing is something that is uniquely local,” Lightfoot told Morning Shift. “We don’t need the Department of Justice to come in and impose a consent decree to move us in the direction of reform.”

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the Police Accountability Taskforce after the city released a video showing a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, he appointed Lightfoot to lead the reform effort.

In April, the taskforce released a 183-page report calling on the police department to acknowledge its history of institutional racism and recommended disbanding the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigated police shootings and misconduct cases.  

City Hall will replace IPRA with a new agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which isn’t scheduled to take effect until 2017.

Lightfoot expressed optimism about the new agency, citing dramatic increases in staffing, more stringent hiring standards, better training for investigators and the creation of the position of Public Safety Inspector General.

“The level of transparency that is required under the ordinance and the reporting that’s going to have to be done, I think that will in some ways really be transformative,” she said.

But she also echoed the mantra of the past year: there’s still a lot left to change within CPD. She pointed to pointing in particular to bettering leadership among sergeants, where she says “the culture of the police department is made.”

Lightfoot said job descriptions and competency tests should be retooled so that officers’ direct supervisors see them in “a much more holistic way.”

“If somebody is having a difficult time in their personal life, they’re going to bring to the job,” she says. “It’s going to show up the way they discharge their responsibilities on a daily basis.”

Lightfoot said sergeants need to be trained to recognize those situations and intervene. 

Lack of training is also still a “fundamental problem” for the department overall, Lightfoot says, with an annual firearms recertification being the the only mandatory training officers receive.

Press play above to hear more, including what Lightfoot called a more “nuanced” take on the much discussed “code of silence” within CPD.